Saturday, January 31, 2015

Lessons from SERIAL (& Sarah Koenig)

Mostly Sarah Koenig.

If you've been following my suggestions for podcasts, you've listened to "Serial", created and hosted by Sarah Koenig. She's a journalist with This American Life.

Sarah lives in State College.

Which makes us cool.


She was invited to speak on campus. The auditorium was packed out of its 600 person capacity. 50 people stood in the lobby to hear the audio of the event; ironic, given that she's a radio personality.

Sarah Koenig is definitely a radio journalist. She seemed confident but not exactly comfortable on the stage talking to so many people whose faces she could see. And most of what she wanted to tell us was this: we were just trying to do good journalism.

That's it. Serial wasn't about harnessing a new wave of radio journalism and story telling, jumping on a band wagon, leading a renaissance. It wasn't about creating something new, a clever hybrid of tech and story and news and research. It wasn't trying to be that, though it accidentally became that.

The team was just trying to do what they knew how to do and do it well.

That's it.

The conversation reminded me of that the really great Makers aren't always in dialogues about making things New. They have their heads down and are cranking out material for years. Then, they do the same thing they've been doing, heads down, but the conditions are right. And it takes off. But it isn't about prepping for that or wanting that even. Sarah made it very clear how uncomfortable she's been with the wild success of Serial, even planning on the podcast losing audience when they do a story that isn't crime related. It was all about the journalism for her. Old school, hard nosed, committed journalism.

What do I know how to do? Am I doing it well? 

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